Before women have babies, they are conditioned to believe that a good mother always puts themselves last; otherwise, they are overlooking their child and are being selfish. So, it’s not surprising that since the Pandemic began, being a mother has got even more demanding. Overloaded with their own work, domestic responsibilities and homeschooling, women often have an uneven burden to carry in the family.
Lately, I’ve noticed that many women I speak to are turning in on themselves, believing that they are terrible mothers. They hold onto a script that their baby/children must always come first, and they have to do everything for the child themselves, even when their partner is able and willing to help and when they are struggling.
One of my clients told me that she has started to ask herself why her husband, who is very hands-on with the baby, managed to find time to exercise and have a shower every day, and she couldn’t. After challenging herself, she realised she was driving this story, and she had choices that she simply wasn’t taking. She started to see that when she had an opportunity to exercise or take time out, she convinced herself there were too many other things to do (there are always other things to do!). Another mother, who had an operation, told me how guilty she felt because her husband was working and helping with the baby while she was recuperating in bed.
Logically, she knew this made no sense, but she was unable to see it any another way than feeling as if she was lazy.
Questioning our internal beliefs needs to be the first point of self-reflection so that our narratives don’t become our reality.Unless women can change these concrete beliefs about “how things are” to “how things can be”, it is impossible to have a clear perspective about their needs and, therefore, have a constructive conversation with their partner. Until women believe that self-care is essential and that it doesn’t make them a bad mother, there will be no self-care. This not only impacts on them but on their family’s wellbeing.
Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist and contributor to NYT Parenting, recently founded Gemma, a digital education platform focused on women’s mental health. She’s been bombarded with requests for help from mums who need self-care but feel awful taking it.
What Self Care Means:
Calming the mind and creating peace within
Spending time with oneself
Exercise and eating well
Taking time to speak and spend time with friends
Spending time in nature
Doing things that give you joy
Letting go of guilt and old scripts